On the screen: Local live-streaming event features Ken Burns
Say what you will about the never-ending drudgery of meetings, but fortunately for documentary fans in western Colorado, an idea born at a meeting earlier this year threw open the door of possibility.
Discussion at the meeting had turned to filmmaker Ken Burns and his latest project with fellow filmmaker Lynn Novick: “The Vietnam War.”
Rocky Mountain PBS will premiere the 18-hour “The Vietnam War” over two weeks in September and was putting together an advance event called “The Vietnam War: An Evening with Ken Burns” at the Newman Center at the University of Denver.
Could you live stream it here? asked Anne Wenzel, president and executive director of the Western Colorado Community Foundation.
That opened a whole new conversation for RMPBS, said Alex Forsett, Western Slope manager for RMPBS.
There was no budget for it, but the idea was such a good one that RMPBS found the money, Forsett said, and even expanded the idea.
The result is a live-streaming event set for 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23, at Avalon Theatre, as well as live-streaming to Colorado Springs.
The Grand Junction event will screen about 56 minutes of content Burns selected from “The Vietnam War” and perhaps some special content not included in the documentary, Forsett said.
Then there will be live-streaming from Denver of a panel discussion featuring Burns and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak, who was the Air Force Chief of Staff from 1990–94. Novick is unable to attend.
During the event, members of the Grand Junction audience will be given note cards where they can write a question for Burns, and two of those questions will be sent to Denver for Burns to answer, Forsett said.
But before “The Vietnam War” clips are shown and the live-streaming begins, video vignettes called “Voices of Vietnam from Colorado” will be shown.
These vignettes contain stories told by Colorado residents, some of whom are from the Grand Valley.
Dan Garrison, film producer and correspondent-in-residence with RMPBS and who also teaches at Colorado Mesa University, worked with crews and equipment at Mesa County Libraries’ 970West Studio to film local footage, which he then edited.
The Grand Junction audience may recognize the face of Sandra Dorr, a Grand Valley writer, who talks about her brother leaving for Vietnam and of protesting the war.
There’s also Peter Robinson of Grand Junction, who served in the U.S. Army during the war.
The “Voices of Vietnam from Colorado,” which can be viewed now at rmpbs.org/vietnam/ and on YouTube.com, were a way of creating a local look at the Vietnam War and to consider the range of sides and perspectives the war created, Garrison said.
There are veterans, protesters and even those who work with Vietnam veterans and the issues they face today, Garrison said.
The Vietnam War “hasn’t ended ... for any of us who pay attention to history,” said Garrison, who will be at the Avalon event.
Garrison’s thoughts echo those of Novick, who in a “The Vietnam War” trailer titled “Extended Look” says, “It remains this kind of unfinished business in American history.”
“There’s no one American side. And then within Vietnam there’s the winning side, there’s the losing side. They were our enemy and our ally. There’s just so many different perspectives. We tried to bring them all together,” Novick says.
“I think the country is ready to have the conversation we’ve never had about the war,” she says.
“This film is not an answer, but a set of questions about what happened,” Burns says in “Extended Look.”
“This is, without a doubt, the most ambitious project that we have ever undertaken,” he says.
And for RMPBS, this a live-streaming event has created a “unique opportunity to engage our Western Slope audience,” Forsett said. “We wanted that in-person engagement.”